R v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex parte Bike Bula Bokele


Queen's Bench Division

[1991] Imm AR 124

Hearing Date: 19 October 1990

19 October 1990

Index Terms:

Political asylum -- applicant had travelled from home country to Belgium where he remained for six weeks -- then, on arrival in United Kingdom applied for political asylum -- whether Secretary of State in reliance on stated policy and Dublin Convention justified in refusing to consider application on its merits -- whether entitled to return applicant to Belgium. HC251 para 75: Dublin Convention arts 5, 6, 7, 8.


The applicant was a citizen of Zaire who had left his home country and travelled to Belgium: he was admitted and spent some six weeks there. He then travelled to the United Kingdom: on arrival he sought political asylum. The Secretary of State, following his stated policy and the terms of the Dublin Convention, refused to consider his application on the merits, and directed his return to Belgium, the state to which he would be expected to apply for asylum. On a renewed inter partes application for judicial review it was argued in terms that the Secretary of State under the United Nations Convention should have considered the application, and it was contended that the applicant, if returned to Belgium would be seriously at risk. Held: 1. The Secretary of State's decision could not be faulted. The Dublin Convention was not yet in force, but both the United Kingdom and Belgium were signatories to it. 2. There was no information before the court on which it could be argued that if returned to Belgium his life would be in danger or that the Belgian authorities would not deal properly with an application for asylum made to them.

Cases referred to in the Judgment:

No cases are referred to in the judgment


G Syril for the applicant; R Jay for the respondent PANEL: Roch J

Judgment One:

ROCH J: On 26 July 1990 the Secretary of State decided to remove the applicant, Mr Bokele, from the United Kingdom to Belgium. On 31 July 1990, following further representations made on Mr Bokele's behalf and a careful review of the applicant's case by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State confirmed his decision to remove the applicant from the United Kingdom to Belgium and not to consider the applicant's application for political asylum in this country. This is an application for leave to move this court for an order of certiorari quashing that decision of the Secretary of State, mandamus ordering the Secretary of State to grant the applicant political asylum and a declaration that the applicant is entitled to political asylum in this country. That application came before Simon Brown J on the papers on 20 September and was refused. Simon Brown J indicated that if the application were to be renewed, the Secretary of State should be invited to attend the hearing. At this hearing the Secretary of State has been represented by Mr Jay and has put in evidence an affidavit of Mr Sprunt, a senior executive officer in the Refugee Unit of Immigration and Nationality Department of the Home Office, to which are attached several exhibits. The applicant is a citizen of Zaire. He was born there on 17 December 1964. His father still lives there and works for the national airline, Air Congo. The applicant left Zaire and arrived in Belgium he says in his affidavit on 2 July 1990. That is probably a mistake. 2 June is the date put forward by the respondents. His passport would indicate that he left Zaire on 31 May. Five days before that, the applicant's passport was stamped with an entry visa into Belgium granted by the Belgian Embassy in Kinshasha. The applicant was in Belgium for some time, probably between 2 June and 16 July 1990. 16 July 1990 was the day on which he arrived in the United Kingdom landing at Gatwick Airport. He presented a passport which was not his own. It was a Dutch passport in the name of Julien Gieken. Quite what his reason for doing that was is not clear. He was interviewed in French because that is his sole language, Zaire being a former colony of Belgium. In the course of the interview, he sought political asylum. He claims that he fled Zaire because his life is in danger in that country. He also claims that if he is returned to Belgium, he will be sent back to Zaire by the Belgian authorities automatically or, alternatively, the secret police of Zaire in Belgium may kidnap him and either take him back to Zaire or he will disappear. The Secretary of State's policy in such cases has been stated to the House of Commons in an answer given by the Home Secretary, Mr Waddington, on 25 July 1990. That answer is contained in the fourth exhibit to Mr Sprunt's affidavit. I do not need to read that answer. This country, as is Belgium, is a signatory of a convention relating to the granting of political asylum. The convention was agreed in 1990 and although not all of the 12 parties to the convention have yet signed it, 11 have, two of those being this country and Belgium. Article 5 of that convention provides that, subject to certain provisos and exceptions, the responsibility of considering whether or not to grant political asylum shall lie with a member state who has issued an applicant with a residence permit or visa. If that article is applied in this case, then the member state who should decide the question of political asylum is Belgium. Articles 6 and 7 of the convention provide that where none of the earlier articles apply, responsibility shall lie with the first state within the European Community which the applicant has entered from outside, whether lawfully or unlawfully. Again, if those articles are applied, then the state which has the responsibility in this case is the state of Belgium. Article 8 provides that where none of the earlier articles apply, then the responsible member state shall be the one in which the applicant first claimed asylum. It would appear on the evidence that under that article it would be the United Kingdom. Of course, that article has no application because it is clear that the earlier articles, 5, 6 and 7, all apply in the present case. Mr Sprunt's affidavit goes on to recall that the Secretary of State has considered the applicant's claim that he would be in danger in Belgium itself and has concluded that that fear, even if it be genuine, is groundless. The Secretary of State is satisfied that the Belgian authorities do and would in this case consider properly an application for political asylum. The respondent's affidavit also points out that the claim by the applicant that he will be in danger in Belgium is not a claim he made in the early interviews that he had with the immigration authority; it is a claim which emerged late in the history of this man. In my judgment, there is no ground on which the decision of the Secretary of State to return the applicant to Belgium could be attacked and any application for judicial review in this case would have no prospect of success. I observe, in addition to the applicant being French speaking, there is in the Zaire Embassy in Brussels a person who is either his uncle or someone whom he knows sufficiently well to call by the name of uncle. It is true that the applicant claims to have a married sister and brother-in-law living in the United Kingdom, and the respondents in their affidavit have indicated that they are prepared to deal with this matter and have dealt with this matter on the basis that that claim is true, although it has not in fact been confirmed. On the information before this court, there is no reason to believe that if he is returned to Belgium the applicant is going to be in danger or that the Belgian authorities will not deal properly with any request by him to be allowed to remain as a political refugee. For those reasons, I refuse leave in this case.


Leave to move for judicial review refused


Singh & Choudry, London E8, Treasury Solicitor

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